Growing up I only knew a couple of blurry facts about my grandfather's time at war:
Fact #1: He was a fighter pilot in the Navy Marines
Fact #2: A lot of his friends died
It wasn't till the past 20 years or so that I have finally started hearing more about my grandfather's time as a Navy Marine pilot in the war and I am once again astonished at the amazing man that my grandfather is.
New facts I have learned about my grandfather's times at war:
Fact #1: He had just turned 18 years old when he enlisted and was an entirely too tall 6' 8" of gangly height. At 18 he was considered the youngest Marine fighter pilot, flying the Corsair fighter plane.
Fact #2: He flew and fought in not 1 war but 2. World War II and the Korean War.
Fact #3: Among other places, he was stationed in and fought in the South Pacific, known to be one of the most dangerous and heated war zones of WWII.
Fact #4: He was awarded a medal (Which was always in his house tucked away in a corner we never knew about) called the Distinguished Flying Cross awarded "for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight, in action against enemy forces in Korea," as well as other flying medals.
Fact #5: He almost died and had to do some pretty crazy flying in order to stay alive.
Fact #6: He survived 4 crashes and was shot down 3 times.
Fact #7: He saw his best friends plane shot down right next to him, killing his friend, and it was the pain from this memory that led him to keep quiet.
After the Korean War, my grandfather came home to his wife, my lovely grandmother, became a Preacher and they raised their 4 children who eventually multiplied out to 11 grandchildren and, so far, 8 great-grandchildren and very little was spoken of his time there again...
that is until the last 20 years or so.
Things that I don't know:
#1. I don't know what it is like to march, swim, hike, drive, parachute, crawl or fly into what might very likely be my death.
#2. I don't know what it is like to watch my best friends get killed right in front of me.
#3. I don't know what it is like to feel the weight of a country's safety and freedom on my shoulders.
#4. I don't know what it is like to try to explain these experiences to those that I love
#5. I don't personally know someone who has been killed at war.
Things that I DO know:
#1. I DO know people who have been greatly affected by fighting in and having loved ones die in war.
#2. I DO know what it is like to be free.
Free- enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery.
Memorial- something designed to preserve the memory of a person, event, etc.
I am thankful, today especially, that my grandfather has opened up, even when he might rather NOT remember, and allowed me the tangible memories of the cost of freedom. I'm thankful that today I can spend time, quietly, in my heart remembering the 1.35 million lives lost in our American History protecting me, my family, my loved ones and our freedom.
Remember- to retain in the memory; keep in mind; remain aware of.
Today I am keeping them in my mind and I am thankful.
Today I am remembering.